Free to Believe

Courtney Schmackers

Next Door Stories: Bexley, Ohio

In February 2015, wedding videographer Courtney Schmackers declined to shoot a lesbian couple’s wedding ceremony. Jenn Moffitt and her partner Jerra Kincely approached Bexley, Ohio video production company Next Door Stories asking if they would cater to a same-sex couple. Schmackers, the company’s owner, sent an email response on February 4th, politely thanking the couple for the inquiry, suggesting they try another production company, and also indicating Next Door Stories, at that time, did not offer services for same-sex weddings.

Moffitt took her story to the press. "I couldn't believe it," Moffitt said in an interview with CNN. "It is a small business, and I thought this was a tight knit community. We wanted to support local commerce and to get that kind of response was astounding."

Moffitt and Kincely filed a complaint against the business with the Bexley Area Chamber of Commerce. According to CNN, the Chamber sent a letter to its members noting that its board was in the process of rewriting its policy to forbid applicants and current members "from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, creed, gender, gender expression, age, ancestry, disability, marital status, sexual orientation or military status."

However, in March 6, 2015 post in the Facebook group GetEqual, Moffitt decried the Bexley Area Chamber of Commerce’s response as insufficient. She explained that her attempts to attract sympathy and support from the ACLU, Equality Ohio and other LGBT activists had not been met with success and offered phone numbers, street addresses, and Facebook pages where activists could continue to harass the Chamber of Commerce and Next Door Stories. When Moffitt and her partner filed the complaint, the state of Ohio did not recognize same-sex unions as marriages.

In a Facebook post that was subsequently removed, Schmackers explained her decision. “I made a business decision based on my spiritual beliefs and the biblical definition of marriage because I thought that I had a right to do that.  Unfortunately, I gave the wrong answer to the wrong person, who decided to make a private issue into a public platform, and now I am fully experiencing the consequences.  I am sorry you had to be exposed to it, and I’m open to any and all conversation regarding it.”  

Photo credit: Courtesy of Courtney Schmackers